Voice of the people: Elizabeth Simpson




Why assume? 


In "State puts CMSD early-release plans in jeopardy," June 19 headline, if assumptions were holes in Swiss cheese, then the article was full of them:  


1. "... if the district follows through with the controversial plan [early release of CMSD students on Wednesdays to allow for teacher training, it most likely will only be in place for the upcoming school year."  


Assumption: One school year is not worthwhile. Why wouldn't 70 hours of teacher training help raise the success rate of students? Professional development is in the personal interest of teachers. They'd be motivated.  


2. "Paula Vanderford, bureau manager for MDE's office of accreditation, was busy making final preparations to notify districts and interested parties before opening the three-week window for comments .... "  


Assumption: The writing is on the wall. At the end of the comment period, local freedom to choose will inevitably be curtailed in 152 school districts. Nobody will have stirred on this issue, or submitted a written comment to Jackson opposing it. Maybe, but why assume?  


3. '"There have been numerous cases of abuse where districts do not utilize that time ... effectively,' Vanderford said. ... While good effective professional development is a proven contributor to higher marks on state tests, Vanderford isn't so sure two or three hours of in-house teacher training per week makes a drastic difference if it's not carefully conceived and exercised."  


Assumptions: Local districts cannot be trusted to carry out proper controls on how their staff spends its time. Even a small improvement would not be enough, so why bother at all. The same teachers expected to goof off aimlessly at the first opportunity instead of using the time wisely are nevertheless expected to prepare our children for modern life. A disconnect? What about the line that is now highlighted? Apparently, "good professional development" does make a recognizable difference.  


4. When a parent "... doesn't leave work until 4 p.m. having her older children released at 12.45 p.m. is a concern. Currently middle school and high school students are dismissed at 3.30 p.m. and elementary school students are dismissed at 2.25 p.m. "  


This is about custodial care. What to do with the children released from school earlier on Wednesdays could be a problem for working parents. When there is nobody at home to open the door and welcome the children, every parent worries what might happen if they forget or lose their keys, not to mention how they'll spend the next two or three hours. If the kids are going to be dumped out on the street for the afternoon, then their safety and well-being are at risk. Will there be social services in place to fill the gap? Not likely, unless somebody makes it happen.  


Some parents may make better arrangements. Some will have more resources, thanks basically to their own educational achievement.  


5. This leads back to the problem of failing schools and the need for better teaching. Let's pretend that it really matters whether teachers have the qualifications, drive, know-how, skill, ambition and talent sufficient to prepare our children for this challenging world. Actually we know it really matters; it is mostly a question of how to go about improving the situation. It may require changing a comfortable status quo: Give a little here; make a trade off there. Some degree of compromise should be possible. Doing nothing will lead us in the direction we are headed: Failing schools mean failing children, failing communities, failing economies. This is untenable.  


Let's not shortchange our children. We're the losers if we do.  


Elizabeth Simpson  






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